If you are considering studying to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), then apart from researching the requirements, programs and salary, you should also investigate what the LPN working conditions are. It is no good studying for a certain position just because you need a job, and then being unhappy in your job. We spend most of our waking lives at work, so being happy in your place of work is really important or you will find that it affects the rest of your life negatively.
A licensed practical nurse provides nursing care under the direction of medical practitioners and under the direct supervision of registered nurses. LPN working conditions are not the easiest, as they are on their feet most of the day, like any other healthcare worker, and they spend their day tending to the needs of the patients under their care. Any job in the medical field is hard and taxing, and individuals who go into these jobs generally do so because they want to help their fellow man, not because they expect a high salary and a cushy 9-5 office job. If that is what you are looking for then licensed practical nursing is not the career for you.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor’s, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses held in excess of 752,000 jobs in 2010. Licensed practical nurses work in various medical institutions such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, private homes, extended-care facilities, nursing homes, and community care facilities for the elderly.
The LPN working conditions do depend, to a large extent, on their work environment, and in 2010 the split of where LPNs worked was as follows:
[table id=5 /]
Some licensed practical nurses are employed on a full-time basis in one of the above types of institutions, whilst others prefer to work part-time or work through an agency which deploys them to different work-sites as the need arises. Whether an LPN works full-time or part-time though, the general working conditions and duties are essentially the same, although they may differ slightly from institution to institution and also from state to state.
Industry Sectors And Work Settings
The industry sector in which you are employed as an LPN, and the type of employer for which you work affects the exact type and scope of work that you will do; those that work in community health centers, industrial settings, rehabilitation and therapeutic facilities, schools, private homes, long-term care facilities, doctors’ offices, childcare centers, and various other facilities will have slightly different duties.
The majority of LPNs work as general practitioners, but a small percentage specializes in a particular area such as pediatrics or geriatrics. Licensed practical nurses that specialize in geriatrics may elect to work only in a nursing home, or those who specialize in pediatrics may choose to only work for a doctor that practices pediatrics or an OBGYN department in a hospital.
Hospitals, offices, and clinics are all locations where an LPN may specialize.
Long-term Care Facilities
The LPN working conditions in long-term care facilities suit those that like to work in a facility that entails meeting the medical and nonmedical needs of individuals with a disability or a chronic illness or. The majority of LPNs are employed in these types of facilities in the U.S. and the duties associated with this type of job are much broader and more varied. Licensed practical nurses employed in long-term care facilities often perform IV care, supervise nurse aides, and may even administer certain medications, depending on the laws in that state.
The LPN working conditions in the public health setting are rather different to those in a physician’s office or a hospital, as these jobs are located in health departments and clinics, schools, non-profit organizations and health centers. The emphasis in this sector is more on prevention of disease and education than on treatment. Working in the public health sector often includes the education of a specific population, clinical work, immunizations, etcetera.
Here the focus is more on implementing local, state, and national health initiatives than on patient care, and because it is the public sector, supervision, pay and duties vary quite widely.
The LPN working conditions of a licensed practical nurse employed in a hospital is quite different to those employed in a physician’s office or a small clinic, as they form part of a large team and generally work in a specific unit. They work as part of a team consisting of lab workers, nurse aides, technicians, registered nurses, and doctors, and are most likely to be found in rehabilitation wards, medical surgical units, and hospital clinics. In this type of scenario the LPN is either paired with an RN or supervised by one.
Hospitals tend to employ an LPN who has a high degree of nursing skill level which they see as an opportunity for further development to RN status. They prefer hiring LPNs who are enrolled in or are planning to enroll in an RN program, as that means that they will be at a higher level of proficiency for the facility and therefore more valuable to them.
Some licensed practical nurses work in a laboratory setting where they perform tests on biological samples, such as urine or blood. It is important that test procedures are followed closely and results are recorded accurately.
Licensed practical nurses employed in clinics and physician’s offices may have to do some administrative work such as answering telephones, placing orders for supplies, keeping records of consumables, dealing with forms related to insurance, manning the reception desk, and various other administrative tasks, as designated by the physician.
The LPN working conditions of those employed in private home-care are often quite different to those employed anywhere else, and may also include preparing meals, driving the patient to medical appointments, doing shopping for them or going shopping with them, doing a bit of light cleaning, and any other duties which may be necessary. Many licensed practical nurse positions in private employ are live-in positions.
Licensed Practical Nurse Duties
Licensed Practical Nurses provide essential nursing services, within a defined scope of practice, and attend to patients based on patient-assessment and care-planning procedures.
A licensed practical nurse’s tasks include:
- Applying aseptic techniques including sterile dressing
- Administering certain types of medication
- Administering basic nursing care such as changing bandages and inserting catheters
- Conducting specimen collection
- Collecting and delivering test results from laboratories
- Ensuring infection control
- Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of nursing interventions and consulting with the appropriate members of the health-care team
- Monitoring nutritional intake
- Monitoring established respiratory therapy and intravenous therapy
- Observing and documenting the therapeutic effects of various medications and reporting any changes to the medical team involved in treating the patient
- Providing health and safety education to patients and their families
- Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe, comb their hair, or dress
- Providing pre-operative and post-operative personal and comfort care to patients
- Taking a patient’s vital signs
- Taking a patient’s medical history
Apart from the above duties, LPN working conditions for more qualified and senior licensed practical nurses working in nursing homes may include their working as a team leader, developing care plans, and supervising nurse-aides.
LPN Work Environment
Many licensed practical nurses work in facilities that require 24-hour care of patients, which means that you must be willing to work flexible schedules, including a swing shift, night shift or weekends and holidays. LPNs that work in physician’s offices generally work normal office hours, but may also be called upon to work on a weekend on the odd occasion.
If you prefer to travel and like to have a new challenge every now and then, you have the option of working as a travel nurse, which means that you can work in different states, and even in different countries or on cruise ships if you have the necessary qualifications.
LPN working conditions in any type of health facility include the possibility of hazards such as radiation, infectious diseases such as hepatitis, and caustic chemicals. The work is also very physical as it entails lifting and carrying patients and moving heavy equipment sometimes and this could lead to back problems if you are not careful.
One of the personality traits that is very important for a licensed practical nurse is good communication skills, as they have a high level of social interaction with patients and their families. This is really important as dealing with patients relatives is not always easy. Patients can also often be agitated, confused, irrational, or uncooperative, and add to this a heavy workload and long hours, and this could make for rather stressful LPN working conditions, but if you are looking for a vocation that offers great satisfaction and the opportunity to help those in need then this may very well be the right profession for you.